Book Review: None Greater, by Matthew Barrett
Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. Baker Books, 2019. 304 pages.
Every Christian wants to know God better. We love him and want our relationship with him to flourish. But knowing God is actually quite challenging. How can we possibly contemplate an incomprehensible God? Even a lifetime of studying Scripture would give us only a faint glimpse of majesty.
In None Greater Matthew Barrett teaches us to marvel at the character of God. As he states, his aim is to write an exploration of God’s character that “is clear and accessible yet uncompromising and rigorous.” (xv). In short, he succeeded. None Greater is a compelling introduction to the character of God that both pastors and laypeople will find useful in their efforts to know the God who has redeemed them.
MARVELING AT GOD’S GREATNESS
Barrett shows that the doctrine of God is at the center of the Christian faith and helps us marvel at God’s greatness in at least three ways.
First, Barrett reminds us that as our creator and redeemer, God deserves the devotion of our thoughts, our affections, and our ministry. None Greater helps us cast off our domesticated views of God. Instead of imagining that God is “like us but with superpowers” (44), he wants us to discover God in his perfections, and worship him.
Second, Barrett demonstrates how our doctrine of God impacts every other doctrine; from assurance to the atonement and Scripture to sovereignty. None Greater emphasizes how God’s character shapes or theological system and our relationship with him. For instance, Barrett demonstrates how God’s immutability means we can trust him to remain good in the midst of trials (chapter 6). God’s impassibility is necessary for his love to be unwavering towards us given through his Son (chapter 7). God eternality means he can offer us endless joy in his presence (chapter 8).
Third, embracing a biblical understanding of God’s character would solve much of what is wrong with Christianity and with churches today. Seemingly small and errant views of God are cracks in the foundation of our faith; fissures that create Christians with stunted spiritual growth. As a pastor, None Greater has motivated me to be as clear about the majesty and character God as I can in my preaching and teaching ministry. This book has fueled a desire to feed my congregation with a big view of God so that they can better marvel at and trust in him.
AN ACCESSIBLE INTRODUCTION
One of the biggest challenges Christians face as they study God’s character is that many books about God are simply inaccessible for laypeople; weighed down by academic theological jargon. Not so with Barrett’s book. One of the great strengths of the work is its clarity. Despite the grandeur of its subject, Barrett focuses on his target audience: churchgoers, pastors, and beginning theology students. He draws on the wisdom of ancient writers like ‘the A-team’ (Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas), and other faithful theologians like the Puritans, all while carefully guiding readers through each discussion. Major theologians who have contributed to our understanding of God’s attributes are highlighted in brief blurbs throughout the book which act like short introductions to their works. My hunch is that you’ll find Barrett’s book to be gateway for further study of the doctrine of God.
AN INTRIGUING JOURNEY
One of the most interesting aspects of Barrett’s book is how he chronicles his own journey of discovery with regard to God’s character. This story isn’t only engaging, it also illustrates what it looks like to be a faithful student of theology. Every Christian, even the most learned professor, is a student. God graciously continues to teach us more and more of himself as we walk the Christian life, read the Scriptures, and learn from teachers. The more we learn the more we recognize how little we know of our marvelous God. Barrett’s book will motivate you to continue in that journey of discovery of God’s character revealed in Scripture.
I gladly recommend None Greater to every pastor and lay person. Give it away to members; read it with your small group; share it with your elders; and be led to worship our great God. Books like this are a gift to the church and to pastors, like me, who aspire to unfold the greatness of God each week to a local church.